This past Monday, the landmark patent law case, eBay v. MercExchange, was decided by the US Supreme Court. You can find the complete slip opinion here. Many other patent law blogs summarized the issue to its extremities and fine grain details, but you can look at it as one of the key battles between so-called patent trolls and big tech corporations in summary.
Surprisingly the Supreme Court came out with a fairly centrist opinion but ruled in favor of eBay (kind of) to vacate the appeals court decision. One of the axioms of the US Supreme Court in the mess that is patent law today was that each Supreme Court opinion messes with the overall structure, harming rather than helping patent litigators, prosecutors, investors and inventors. Why is that? It’s hard to say in short but it might have to do with making laws in the vacuum.
Thankfully this opinion isn’t likely to alter the landscape of law too much. While weakening what injunctions are for patent infringers today, the opinion seemed more corrective than authoritative. The normal elements of injunctive relief is still fully available as they were for decades, and at the discretion of the trial court. The two concurring opinions were very informative and Chief Justice Robert’s opinion re-nailed the opinion of the court:
“The decision whether to grant or deny injunctive relief rests within the equitable discretion of the district courts, and that such discretion must be exercised consistent with traditional principles of equity, in patent disputes no less than in other cases governed by such standards.”
The standards, on that note, are:
“(1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction. “
The surprise is just how the Supreme Court justices couched their positions. It seemed that this is one thing that the various justices tend to agree with, given its unanimous decision with two heavily-joined concurrences. Probably slightly less than exciting, overall, was this case given the hype it had. And all is good.